1 Peter 4:9 tells us to "Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another." But what is hospitality? In German the word for hospitality is Gastfreundschaft which means "the freedom of a guest." This can be very difficult when we think of the dirty fingerprints on our windows, the extra dishes and food that would be required, our time or the fear of letting someone into the deepest part of who we are. In churches we commonly use the term "fellowship" and think this is hospitality. Hospitality is so much deeper and personal than just a get-together and sharing of time and food.
What examples of hospitality do we see in the Bible? Many think immediately of Mary and Martha and the single instance of disharmony that was brought before Jesus. But considering the close friendship between Lazarus and Jesus it is unlikely this was a first time visit. Mary and Martha felt close enough to Jesus to send for him when Lazarus died, then commented that if he had been there Lazarus would not have died.
But Jesus shows us the ultimate example of hospitality. How many of us would be willing to lower ourselves to wash the feet of those in our own church? And think of the shoes we have today versus the shoes of Jesus' time? What about the road conditions of Biblical times? When I think of Jesus humbling himself at each step, getting a basin of water, a clean towel and bending down to wash the disciples in order to serve them, I can only guess that after each disciple fresh water was needed before going on. He continues in his service to us each day as we bring our prayers to him and he interceeds on our behalf to the Father.
Often it is at an inconvient time, how many would pass a broken-down car on our way to church so that we will not be late. Sometimes we may the only person who can meet that person's need. A little over a year ago we were on our way to visit our son at the hospitala three-hour tripso I took his blanket that needed to be mended in order to make good use of my time. Little did I know that blanket would be needed by a young man in a terrible accident. As we traveled on the divided road I saw smoke comming from the trees, we turned around and found that we were not the first ones to stop. A truck driven by a young man was stuck between two trees and men where helping him out, as the white smoke poured out of the car. It was a very cold morning so we ran back to the car and grabbed the blanket, threw it down to the men to keep the injured man warm until the paramedics could arrive. I was very glad to see so many people on their way to church stop and help.
Just this past weekend as Rich was returning to the hotel from the event he was photographing, he got lost. Fast approaching him were two homeless men asking for money. Since he doesn't carry money around the city or to events that he must focus on, he had to say he didn't have any. They thanked him and went on their way. Then he remembered the Metro ticket in his pocket, after using less then $2.00 of the $5.00 we had put on it, he called to them and offered the ticket. They were very thankful for something we would probably have just lost or misplaced before being able to use it again.
I believe God gives us opportunities every day to be hospitable to others. It is up to us whether we take these opportunities or not. I find that I miss more opportunities then I take. As I continue to read and share my new book I hope to see more clearly and take the opportunities God gives me.